There are rites of spring. The robins returning. The mud and puddles on County Road 19. And the St. Michael-Albertville girls’ basketball team playing for some hardware in March.
St. Michael-Albertville found its offense – after only scoring eight points for the majority of the first half – and rolled to a 54-32 victory over the Rogers Royals at the STMA High School gym to advance to the Section 8-4A championship game.
The second quarter spurt was led by Erin Autio and Bobbi Brendefur, as the Knights took an 8-7 lead and extended it to a 25-12 margin with a few key shots behind the arc.
Brendefur found her stroke just in time, nailing back to back 3’s to key the rally. Autio would chip in before the half with a key bucket, and the Knights would extend its lead to 20 behind Sydney Tracy’s spurt in the second half.
Rogers used a 1-2-2 zone defene to keep Rae Johnson and the Knights off balance for eight minutes of the first half, but couldn’t convert on the offensive end either. STMA used strong rebounding – Jordyn Walker nabbed six and Autio had four, including two during the first half stalemate – to keep Rogers to short possessions on offense.
“We picked it up on the defensive end, and that’s what finally got our offense going,” said head coach Kent Hamre, who will lead STMA to its fifth straight Section 8-4A championship tilt. The Knights and Elks met last year for the title, with STMA advancing to state for a third straight season. The last time the Knights lost the title was in 2011, when they lost to Buffalo in the final.
“Elk River’s strong. They play in a tough conference so they’re always a little bit better than what their seed might indicate,” Hamre said.
Indeed, the No. 3 Elks easily dispatched of St. Cloud Tech, who had a higher seed (2) and more wins (22 to 12) at the STMA gym prior to the Knights/Royals game.
Those two teams will meet Friday night at St. John’s University in Collegeville, with the tip set for 7 p.m.